Hotel Review: Château de Fonscolombe, Provence, France
Words by Codelia Mantsebo
Brand new hotel, Château de Fonscolombe may be in its early years, but this castle hotel is a historical monument in its own right. And even after being rebirthed as a five-star hotel, the chateau preserves a historic spirit that goes back at least three centuries.
If the walls of Château de Fonscolombe could talk, they would tell you about the lives of the old owners and their illustrious ancestors, the lustrous private occasions held here and the stories of the royals and sovereigns who spent the night. But you need not imagine too hard because almost every inch of this hotel tells you something about its historic past.
Built in 1730, in the heart of Provence, the chateau belonged to two wealthy families — a lineage of humanists, politicians and botanists. Following 18 months of rehabilitation and restoration, and after being a strictly private residence for 300 years, the chateau opened its gates to the public for the first time ever in 2017.
And just after two years running, the hotel has firmly found its feet — perfectly blending the modern into the old. You’ll find the charm of bygone eras permeating every corner of the hotel, with added modern comforts that go beyond flat screen TVs — 24-hour room service and free Wi-Fi (that works in modern-day speed) are available throughout the hotel.
Spread across 10 hectares of lush landscapes, the castle grounds feature sculptures inspired by famous French sculptors, a vast vineyard that dates back to Roman times, melodic fountains, a devoted chapel and a heated outdoor swimming pool that once served as a pond.
There is a listed nature reserve park with nearly 200 tree-species and plants (including a tree planted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1965 when she stayed here as a guest of the family). The tree is still standing on the grounds as is her room (203) located in the historical part of the building.
A walk inside the hotel will reveal the meticulous attention to detail put into regaining its olden charm. Not one detail has been neglected; from the ceiling all the way down to the floor.
Above, the frescoed ceiling has been restored, while on the floor, the original Provençal tomettes (terracotta tiles), from the 1700s, were taken off one by one, cleaned and placed back in.
Hand-painted Chinese wallpaper was restored to resonate with the lively character of the families back then, and exceptionally rare Genoa leathers adorn the salons. Most of the sculptures and frescos were renovated on site, many of which have been around since the entire place was built back in the 18th century.
All 50 rooms and suites are stylishly furnished, each room with a slightly different feel. My room in the ‘castle wing’, offered views of the gardens and was dressed in crisp white linens on the beds, while beautiful drapes covered wrought-iron balconies.
My window (which still has the original locks and hinges) opened out onto the peaceful and soft murmuring of the fountain in front of the gardens.
In the historical part of the chateau, there’s a library, a music room, a children’s game room, a billiards room and a lounge bar adjacent to a cellar where wine tastings can take place.
Located in the castle’s former boudoir on the ground floor of the castle, a spa with a tall, arched ceiling, offers massages, treatments and facials. There’s a wooden-framed hammam (which kind of looks like something out of Game of Thrones), and a listed beauty salon dedicated to well-being and beauty. During weddings, brides may prepare themselves here in complete privacy.
There’s also a fitness room with free weights, floor mats and exercise equipment (one has won a Design Award in Germany). I thought the rowing machine was particularly impressive — its counterweight is a water-filled vessel that reproduces the sounds of gentle splashing as you row.
Château de Fonscolombe tells a story of a historic 300-year-old private chateau that has belonged to two noble families, but the hotel doesn’t simply preserve its own history.
You’ll also find references to Provence around the hotel; the main fountain out front takes inspiration from the famous Fontaine des Quatre-Dauphins, located in the square of Aix-en-Provence, while another at the gardens pays tribute to Mule-Noir by Provence-born sculptor Jean-Pancrace Chastel.
The restaurant adopts a Provencal charm, serving typically Provencal dishes, and rooms are stocked with amenities from Rose & Marius (all hand-made in France and made from the natural elements of Provence).
With only 50 rooms and 10 hectares of land for guests to use, the hotel strikes the perfect balance of intimacy and solitude. The atmosphere at Fonscolombe is relaxed yet indulgent. Welcoming yet private.
Guests can determine the tone of their stay, whether they’re looking to disappear for an intimate getaway, escape from it all with family or host a wedding ceremony in an authentic castle setting.
Château de Fonscolombe combines the ambience of bygone eras with the luxury and comfort of today. It has history, it has charm, and it has a personality that most castle hotels simply can’t capture.
Address: Route de Saint-Canadet, 13610 Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, France
Phone: +33 4 42 21 13 13